Dallas Resources – June 2002
By Jeffrey Weiss and Susan Hogan/Albach
On DallasNews.com, a draft policy released Tuesday for how the Catholic Church should deal with sexually abusive priests is not enough to pull Claudette Allen back to her Ennis parish - not yet.
In 1989, she was a youth minister who reported the activities of pedophile priest Rudolph "Rudy" Kos to the Dallas Diocese. Her warnings weren't heeded then, she said, and Catholic leaders will need to prove that they're serious about the policies contained in the new proposals.
"I might come back if they follow through at the dioceses and let their priests and bishops who are willing to change make the changes," she said.
The policy proposal, which calls for the mandatory reporting of sexual-abuse allegations involving minors to civil authorities, was issued by the Ad Hoc Committee on Sexual Abuse for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
The document released Tuesday calls the clergy sex-abuse scandal "a crisis without precedent in our times." It says the abuse "and the ways in which these crimes and sins were too often dealt with by bishops, have caused enormous pain, anger and confusion."
Ms. Allen said some of the suggestions represented progress: the mandatory reporting requirement and mandatory defrocking of any priests found to have abused minors in the future, for instance.
But she can't understand why the policy would allow some priests who have only a single accuser of abuse from years ago to continue in ministry.
"I think there's been so much bad judgment in the past that we can't trust for it to be more than one case of abuse" to have a priest defrocked, she said.
Many Catholics offered the same kind of mixed review - signs of progress, complaints about specific details - to the proposal.
The conference will have its annual meeting in Dallas next week. And the bishops will be asked to come up with the first nationally binding policy on how to handle priests accused of abusing minors. Any policy approved by two-thirds of the bishops must be ratified by the Vatican to be binding on all dioceses.
While the document recommends that bishops be accountable to lay-majority boards that would monitor compliance, there was no provision for enforcement or sanctions for bishops who fail to comply with the policy.
The Dallas Diocese was the scene of one of the most notorious recent cases of sexually predatory priests. Mr. Kos, who was defrocked, was handed a life sentence in prison five years ago, and the diocese lost a civil trial. A judge ordered it to pay nearly $ 120 million in damages - the largest judgment of its kind at the time - which was later negotiated to a $ 31 million settlement.
Bishop Charles V. Grahmann of Dallas issued a statement Tuesday that did not discuss specifics of the proposal but said that he strongly supported the adoption of a national policy during the meeting in Dallas.
"While there will be debate on some aspects of the proposed policy, it is critical for church leaders to reach consensus on a tough, thorough and consistent national policy," he said.
The Rev. Richard John Neuhaus, editor of the conservative magazine First Things, said the proposal was legally sound and good public relations, but "from a spiritual viewpoint, it is a disaster."
"It doesn't touch on the obvious fact that these scandals are caused by a loss of faith on the part of priests and some bishops that obviously are not fully adhering to Catholic teaching or their sacred vows," he said.
David Clohessy, director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said the suggestions "are long on exquisite hair-splitting about abusers, short on specifics about enforcement, and silent on corrupt church leaders who have re-assigned molesters and cover up their crimes."
But Mike Emerton, spokesman for the newly formed national lay group Voice of the Faithful, called the proposals "a wonderful draft. It certainly shows that the hierarchy is going in the right direction."
The policy calls upon any bishop to offer to meet and offer help to every victim and their families in his diocese and to create a review board to hear new reports of abuse and advise the bishop on how to deal with abusive priests.
Enforcement penalties won't be needed, said Archbishop Harry Flynn of St. Paul, Minn., the chairman of the committee that drafted the proposed policy.
"Public disclosure would be sanction enough," he said. "I can't imagine any bishop who would subject himself to that. There will be a review board seeing how all these policies are being implemented."
Archbishop Flynn gave the first official explanation of the proposal at a news conference held in the bishops conference headquarters in Washington, D.C.
"Our foremost goal is to protect children and young people," he said. "One essential way to do it is to say clearly that if you abuse, you're out of the priesthood."
But the proposal wouldn't do that for some old cases of abuse. If it is determined that the priest is not a pedophile, and if there is only one victim, and if the priest is counseled and accepts monitoring, and if the parish is told of his past, he might be allowed to continue in some kind of ministry, the proposal says.
Archbishop Flynn said he has some priests guilty of sexual abuse in the past serving in his own diocese in nonministerial roles.
"It's worked out well," he said. "It's given them a sense of purpose in life."
By Susan Hogan/Albach
More than two years later, he's still waiting.
At a time when attention inside and outside the Catholic Church is focused on a pivotal bishops conference this week in Dallas, the host bishops share a distant and often awkward relationship.
"Bishop Galante came from being in charge of a diocese to an understudy role," said Bishop Michael Pfeifer of the San Angelo Diocese. "He would honor Bishop Grahmann because he has a deep respect for authority.
"At the same time, just looking at these two people and putting them together, you can see where that could create some tension."
In the public eye, they appear harmonious. Behind the scenes, they are not close. Priests and employees say they often feel caught in the middle.
To detail this picture of the Dallas diocesan leadership, The Dallas Morning News spoke with the two bishops and more than 70 other people, including 24 priests, three bishops and at least three dozen laypeople and diocesan employees.
Among them were many of the Dallas diocese's highest-ranking officials - members of Bishop Grahmann's cabinet, the diocese's personnel board and the Presbyteral Council, a group of priests that advises the bishops in matters pertaining to clergy and parish life.
Some of those interviewed are loyal supporters of one of the two bishops. Others are neutral voices supportive of both.
The Dallas priests and diocesan employees spoke about their two bishops on the condition of anonymity. They say they aren't allowed to comment publicly without clearance from diocese spokesman Bronson Havard or Chancellor Mary Edlund.
Mr. Havard and Ms. Edlund say separately that they have given permission in some cases, but priests say they are getting a different message.
Though the bishops' offices are only a few feet apart, Bishop Grahmann primarily communicates indirectly with Bishop Galante - at diocesan meetings or through Ms. Edlund.
Asked recently how closely the bishops work in shaping policy, Bishop Grahmann said his coadjutor is a member of his cabinet and has input at those meetings.
Bishop Galante usually brings a point of view to those meetings and doesn't always listen to advisers. Bishop Grahmann, in contrast, prefers to hear others out and doesn't always offer his point of view.
"He's very considerate," Mr. Havard said of Bishop Grahmann. "He gets input before you ever really know his opinion.
"He's not a micromanager. His philosophy is to appoint good department heads and let them do their jobs."
Asked directly to describe their working relationship, the two bishops responded indirectly.
Bishop Grahmann: "I am to love all people without determining the consequences or how they will respond to that love."
Bishop Galante: "I'm in the office every day, and he's in the office every day."
Said Mr. Havard, the diocesan spokesman: "I think they get along fine."
Expected to lead
When Bishop Galante left Beaumont after leading that diocese for more than five years, colleagues said he was thrilled to be going to Dallas and fully expected to lead that diocese soon.
"It's almost unheard of for a coadjutor to wait in the wings as long as he has," said the Rev. Thomas Reese, a Catholic scholar and editor of the Jesuit magazine America.
Bishop Galante is one of only three coadjutor bishops serving in the nation's 194 dioceses, according to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
In each case, the coadjutors are serving bishops who won't reach the mandatory retirement age for four years.
Bishop Grahmann said he intends to serve his full term. He isn't required to submit a letter of resignation to the Vatican until he reaches the mandatory retirement age of 75.
Bishop Grahmann said he petitioned the Vatican in 1998 for an assistant bishop because his diocese had doubled in size and he needed the help. The Dallas Diocese spans nine counties and has an estimated 800,000 members.
He expected to receive an auxiliary, a bishop with no right of succession. Some church leaders said the appointment of a coadjutor was a signal that the Vatican wanted Bishop Grahmann to step down.
Others said the Vatican was merely concerned about the bishop's health. Bishop Grahmann required surgery in late 1997, an arterial bypass to correct blockage to a kidney. He rebounded quickly, but church leaders across the country speculated that he might not be well enough to serve out his term.
In the more than two years since Bishop Galante's arrival, the two bishops have settled into a respectful, distant relationship and appear to be trying to make the best of their situation.
"Some bishops would resent having a coadjutor around when they have several years left to serve," Father Reese said. "I'm sure he [Bishop Grahmann] tried to put a good face on it."
The Rev. Gabriel Montalvo, the Vatican's apostolic pro-nuncio who serves as spokesman for the church's Washington office, declined interview requests regarding the Dallas situation.
Similar, yet different
It's not that the two bishops dislike each other, but their personalities, leadership styles and hobbies are almost opposites.
Bishop Grahmann, 70, is a stoic German-American who grew up on a farm in Hallettsville, Texas. He loves fishing, duck hunting and telling stories about each. He's friendly, but his conversations can be hindered by his hearing impairment and reserved demeanor.
Bishop Galante, 63, is an outgoing Italian-American from Philadelphia. He has an encyclopedic knowledge of movies, sports and popular music and a doctorate in church law. He's an articulate speaker who seldom uses notes.
"They're similar in many ways, but there's much difference," said Bishop Pfeifer of San Angelo. "Bishop Grahmann may give the appearance of being more brusque. ... He maybe doesn't have the warmth and smile of Bishop Galante when you approach him, but when you sit down with him, he's very open and kind."
Insiders say Bishop Galante spent his first months in Dallas cultivating support among the priests for the day he succeeded Bishop Grahmann. Parishes across the diocese soon became designated as "Grahmann" or "Galante" sites based on the perceived allegiance of the priest.
Bishop Grahmann was said to be hurt and angered by his coadjutor's maneuvering. He gave Bishop Galante supervision of significant areas of diocese's ministries: schools, youth ministry, religious education and communications - but didn't take him in as a trusted adviser.
"Much of his time has been getting to know the diocese," Mr. Havard said.
The relationship between the two bishops might be more congenial had Bishop Galante been appointed as an auxiliary.
"You have two different sets of expectations," Bishop Pfeifer said. "One bishop is trying to hold on to his job; the other bishop is waiting to take over that job."
Since the abuse scandals erupted in January, Bishop Galante's profile has been elevated by frequent appearances on national television.
He's also one of eight bishops serving on the Ad Hoc Committee on Sexual Abuse, which last week released a draft policy on clergy sexual abuse. The bishops could vote on adopting that policy during the Dallas meeting.
"What people have noticed is that he's not scripted," said Sister Mary Ann Walsh, conference spokeswoman. "He's comfortable tackling sensitive sexual subjects. I told him he was the only bishop in the country who can say 'genitalia' on television."
His prominence and candor have fueled speculation among church leaders that the Vatican will select him to lead another diocese or archdiocese, perhaps Milwaukee or Palm Beach, Fla., which have lost bishops during the scandal.
"This is a guy who doesn't believe you solve problems by avoiding the media or concealing information," said Monsignor Francis Maniscalco, conference spokesman. "He believes in openness, telling the truth and not making excuses for cover-ups."
Back in Dallas, Bishop Galante has less freedom to speak his mind. In times of crisis, Bishop Grahmann often declines interviews.
"I don't believe the media is the enemy," Bishop Galante said recently. "I don't expect them to deal with the church as though they're an arm of it. My basic stance is that I will tell the truth and I will not defend the indefensible."
Divided over old cases
The two bishops say they support "zero tolerance" policies for new cases of clergy who molest children but are divided over what should be done about old cases.
Bishop Grahmann said he'll take direction from the conference. Bishop Galante has his own opinion.
"Even if someone abused one person 25 years ago and never had an accusation of abuse since, I firmly believe he cannot be put into ministry again," he said.
By all accounts, Bishop Galante relishes the spotlight and savors the key role he has had in shaping whatever sex abuse policy U.S. bishops adopt.
Meanwhile, Bishop Grahmann still battles the legacy of Rudy Kos.
Father Kos was a priest who molested minors in three of the diocese's parishes from 1981 to 1992. Bishop Grahmann became Dallas bishop in 1990 and removed the priest from ministry after a victim came forward - long after the diocese had received other complaints.
A civil jury awarded a historic $ 119.6 million verdict against the diocese for gross negligence, fraud and reckless disregard for the safety of others. A $ 31 million settlement was later reached.
Despite public apologies to the victims, Bishop Grahmann defends his handling of the case. He also directed the diocese to develop a safe environment program that requires criminal background checks.Last week he said through a spokesman that he's willing to meet with any victims from the Kos case.
Mr. Havard said Bishop Grahmann was not the problem.
"He was not the bishop when Kos was moved around," Mr. Havard said. "He was the bishop that removed Kos."
Shortly after being named coadjutor, Bishop Galante was asked about the diocese's handling of Father Kos.
"There have been mistakes. There has been poor judgment. There has been evil," Bishop Galante said. "We have to be honest about that."
'He's pretty informal'
Bishop Galante is seen as the more hands-on administrator. Insiders expect decision-making to almost certainly become more centralized and top-down if he takes over the diocese.
The Rev. Michael Jamail said Bishop Galante wanted to be kept fully informed of diocesan matters during his time in Beaumont.
"By that, I do not mean that he was controlling," said Father Jamail, Beaumont's vicar general. "We had easy access to him. He's pretty informal."
A frequent complaint of Dallas priests and diocesan employees is that Bishop Grahmann isn't accessible. His demeanor is more formal, they said.
"I'm one of his closest friends, and he's never hugged me," Mr. Havard said recently.
And yet despite their many differences, "these are two men with a deep, strong love for the church," said Bishop Joseph Fiorenza of the Galveston-Houston Diocese, who knows both bishops.
"Deep in their hearts, they're trying to do the best that they can."
Bishop Charles V. Grahmann; Coadjutor Bishop Joseph Galante
Dallas Morning News
Coadjutor Bishop Joseph Galante
SOURCE: Dallas Diocese
Two-Thirds of Bishops Let Accused Priests Work
By Brooks Egerton and Reese Dunklin
Roughly two-thirds of the top U.S. Catholic leaders have allowed priests accused of sexual abuse to keep working, a practice that spans decades and continues today, a three-month Dallas Morning News review shows.
Church spokesmen did not dispute the results of the study, which is the first of its kind and depicts a far broader pattern than has emerged this year in Boston. That archdiocese's employment of known child molesters has made international news and led Pope John Paul II to summon American cardinals to Rome in April.
Now, with the world watching and the crisis deepening, members of the Catholic hierarchy are in Dallas to debate a draft policy on abuse – which does not address church leaders' roles in concealing or enabling it.
A few prosecutors around the country have begun examining bishops' actions, even as some representatives of the Vatican – which must approve any decisions made this week – are suggesting that U.S. church leaders not cooperate fully with secular authorities.
Meanwhile, recent polls say that most American Catholics believe that church leaders involved in cover-ups should resign. Four bishops have resigned this year after being accused of sexual misconduct, including the head of the Diocese of Lexington, Ky., and an auxiliary bishop in New York on Tuesday. Others who previously quit have returned to ministry.
The News' review found that at least 111 of the nation's 178 mainstream,
or Roman rite, Catholic dioceses are headed by men who have protected
accused priests or other church figures, such as brothers in religious
orders, candidates for the priesthood, teachers and youth-group workers.
The study did not include about 100 other members of the U.S. Conference
of Catholic Bishops, most of whom serve in supporting roles but can vote
this week in Dallas.
Among the 111 are all eight cardinals who lead American archdioceses,
bishops in at least 40 states, and most members of the bishops committee
that drafted the policy up for discussion.
The Rev. Francis Maniscalco, a spokesman for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, expressed no surprise at the numbers.
"Why should anybody's feet be held to the fire?" he asked. "The bishops made what they thought were prudent decisions at the time. The decisions were made on the best advice available.
"This is a very complex matter that the bishops have been trying to deal with for nearly 20 years," Monsignor Maniscalco said.
Dallas Coadjutor Bishop Joseph Galante, a member of the current abuse committee, acknowledged that some leaders repeatedly reassigned men in spite of evidence that they were reoffending and that their therapy wasn't working.
"I can't defend that," he said. "It is not defendable."
Bishop Galante said he did not think any of his colleagues had put molesters
back to work with "the intent of putting someone in danger. But the
result has been that."
Monsignor Maniscalco noted that some suspended priests have won reinstatement from the Vatican, and that others went back to work with the consent – sometimes even at the insistence – of congregations.
Bishops, he said, have agonized about how to handle accusations, particularly when accusers didn't want to file civil or criminal charges. Sometimes the solution was to put priests in administrative jobs or adult-only ministries, he said.
Bishop Galante said he sees two shortcomings with that approach. One, he said, is "the affront to the victim," and the other is that the priests retain a social status that may help them gain access to children while technically off duty.
He explained the latter phenomenon through a lament another bishop shared with him many years ago, after reassigning pedophiles to nursing home chaplain jobs and similar posts: "The problem is they all have driver's licenses and cars."
The Rev. Thomas Doyle, who helped write the 1985 report to the bishops while working at the Vatican Embassy in Washington, said he thought numbers found in The News' study were low. Nevertheless, he said, the results point to a problem so pervasive that "the bishops don't know how to fix it."
Father Doyle now consults extensively with plaintiffs' attorneys and has broken with top church leaders, saying that they did nothing to address the issues he raised. He said he doubts the Dallas meeting will result in major reform.
"In the past, the bishops, the clerics from the pope on down, have said many positive, apologetic things, and they have not followed through," Father Doyle said. Just getting to this juncture, where the only item on the bishops' agenda is abuse, took "an avalanche of negative publicity that was followed by a tidal wave of more negative publicity that was accompanied by a massive hemorrhage of millions and millions of dollars."
What does he think it would take to bring about major change? "It will take one of them going to jail for cover-up and obstruction," said Father Doyle, a military chaplain who once screened American bishop candidates and was considered bishop material.
Bishop Galante, asked whether some diocesan leaders were too much a part of the problem to be part of the solution, replied: "I honestly don't know."
In recent months, many bishops have announced zero-tolerance policies, combed through personnel files and dismissed previously accused priests.
"I would be saddened and very much shocked," Bishop Galante said, "if there are still bishops so caught up in the old way that they can't see a new way."
In explaining why they let accused and even confirmed abusers keep working,
bishops frequently give a two-part defense: They did what they did many
years ago, relying on the advice of skilled therapists who had treated
For starters, several bishops left suspect clergymen in parishes or transferred them in the late 1990s and beyond, after a landmark civil trial in Dallas' Rudy Kos case resulted in the largest clergy-abuse verdict in history. Sometimes they did so after allegations of recent misconduct.
In Alexandria, La., for example, Bishop Sam Jacobs returned the Rev. John Andries to a parish after a 1998 fondling accusation. By last year, Father Andries was in trouble again, criminally charged with touching and masturbating onto a sleeping boy at his rural home.
And in southern Oklahoma, the Rev. James Rapp stayed on the job until 1999, five years after a previous boss in Michigan told Oklahoma City Archbishop Eusebius Beltran that the priest had been treated for a sexual disorder. During those five years, Father Rapp molested at least one boy and has since been sent to prison.
When it comes to the question of medical advice, Richard Sipe, a prominent Catholic therapeutic expert, acknowledges that psychiatry has advanced in recent decades and better understands the intractability of abusers.
But the bishops' insistence on this point, he argues, obscures a larger one: that church leaders rarely alerted police and sometimes pressed victims not to, allowing criminals to escape the consequences of their crimes.
"Is there any bishop who didn't know this was illegal?" asks Mr. Sipe, a married ex-priest who has reviewed case histories on hundreds of abusive clergy. As a priest and as a layman, he has advised Catholic leaders on how to deal with offenders.
Mr. Sipe also said many bishops have seemed more interested in putting their priests back to work than making sure it was safe to do so. Some bishops, he said, sent abusers to therapists who lacked specialized training, or withheld information from professionals to minimize the seriousness of a situation. Some simply did not heed experts' recommendations or warnings, as seen from testimony in the Kos case and other lawsuits.
Finally, Mr. Sipe said, some treatment centers that bishops used were staffed in part with priests who were accused of abuse.
Similar scenarios have been revealed recently in Boston: Molesters were moved from parishes to diocesan headquarters, where they made decisions affecting more recently accused priests. And in Cleveland, one accused priest was told to monitor another, who had been reassigned to his church. They have since been accused in a lawsuit of ganging up on a boy in a shower there.
Keeping details hidden
Other themes that emerged from a database The News compiled:
• Despite pledges of openness from Bishop Wilton Gregory of Belleville, Ill., who heads the national conference of bishops, some Catholic leaders have failed to provide a complete picture of clergy abuse in their dioceses.
In March, for example, Bishop William Curlin of Charlotte, N.C. announced that he had "zero tolerance for child sex abuse" and that the only misconduct case he knew about in the area happened a half-century ago. A month later came the news that Bishop Curlin had reassigned a priest in 1997 after paying a settlement to one victim.
The bishop of Evansville, Ind., Gerald Gettelfinger, made a similar no-tolerance pronouncement this spring, then soon admitted he had at least three accused priests in parishes. One had a child-pornography conviction. Another had been sent to treatment twice and still wasn't obeying orders not to work closely with children. His accusers included his nephew.
Still other church leaders, such as Indianapolis Archbishop Daniel Buechlein, have refused to say anything about what they've done with accused priests.
• Some prelates continue to keep evidence of sexual abuse hidden from law enforcement authorities.
Omaha, Neb., Archbishop Elden Curtiss didn't tell police last year when a priest admitted viewing child pornography on a work computer, a prosecutor has said. The archbishop transferred the man from one Catholic school to another, and criminal charges resulted only after a lay teacher bypassed the archbishop and alerted authorities.
Archbishop Curtiss has since been investigated for possible witness tampering after he sought the whistle-blower's resignation. He has apologized and won't be charged, the prosecutor said.
• Some church leaders, through action or inaction, have helped criminally accused priests leave the country.
Several – from Texas, California, North Dakota, New Jersey and elsewhere – remain at large. Another is in South America, where he got a job after a molestation conviction in New York. A bishop there wrote the priest a job recommendation after he had been indicted. The priest is under house arrest, accused of molesting more children in Colombia.
Staff researcher Darlean Spangenberger contributed to this report.
Foreign-Born Priests Ease Shortage But Pose Accountability Challenge
By Mark Wrolstad
Inside the Catholic crisis, the known and alleged abuse by one segment of the clergy - in Texas alone - forms its own indictment.
A priest imprisoned for preying on boys in rural San Antonio parishes.
A seminary student accused of fondling a young boy in San Angelo but allowed to leave the country.
A priest charged with sexually assaulting a girl in Tyler; freed on bail by churchgoers, he disappeared.
A pastor who pleaded guilty to molesting a girl in his South Dallas parish; he'll be deported when he gets out of prison.
The offenders had more in common than their positions with the Catholic Church. They are among the thousands of men who have come from foreign countries to serve the faithful in the United States and make new lives here.
Foreign-born priests have been a critical answer to another growing crisis in the church: the shortage of priests throughout much of the world.
But with American bishops considering a "zero tolerance" policy for sexual abusers and many dioceses instituting criminal background checks and stricter standards for employment, people inside and outside the church have raised concerns about a lack of screening and controls in a system that imports large numbers of foreign priests.
Most international priests - as they are often called - fulfill their duties and deserve their parishioners' trust. But according to victims' advocates, pre-immigration background checks are lax and inconsistent, priests are inadequately monitored and, if accusations arise, their foreign origins can afford them an escape beyond the reach of American justice.
The same can hold true in reverse, they said, when American priests are sent abroad. Some critics suspect that members of the Catholic hierarchy in the United States and other countries have deliberately exported and reassigned problem priests while withholding histories of alleged sexual misconduct from their peers and parishioners.
Nationwide, foreign-born priests have been implicated in scores of abuse cases - perhaps 200 - though no complete statistics exist.
"There's a significant problem with foreign-born priests," said the Rev. Thomas Doyle, who co-wrote a 1985 study of priest sexual abuse for U.S. bishops and has helped hundreds of alleged victims pursue abuse claims. "It's hard to say how many priests are sent to the U.S. because they have a problem with sexual abuse.
"That's chilling, and it's also a true fact. It has happened."
Those who find such machinations unthinkable, he said, need merely look to the daily revelations about accused U.S. priests who were moved to avoid publicity and scandal.
"Honesty and integrity haven't exactly been heavy-duty commodities in this whole mess," said Father Doyle, formerly a Vatican Embassy lawyer in Washington and now a military chaplain in Germany. "Why would a bishop send an offender from one country to another, from one diocese to another, from one parish to another? Because they want to get rid of them."
Putting numbers on that problem is as difficult as figuring out how many priests overall have committed sexual abuse.
There's not even an accurate count of foreign priests in the United States, according to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the National Federation of Priests' Councils.
David Early, a spokesman for the conference, said he didn't know if bishops would "single out" foreign priests in their policy discussions this week of clergy sexual misconduct.
Of the nearly 46,000 priests in the United States, more than 20 percent may be foreign born. Their numbers vary widely by diocese.
In the Dallas Diocese, 30 of 182 active priests are foreign-born, a relatively low percentage.
Near the other end of the scale, the Tyler Diocese in East Texas has 61 foreign-born pastors out of 85.
The Fort Worth Diocese has 33 foreign-born priests - about the same number as Dallas but among the smaller total of 116.
Viewing immigrant priests with specific suspicion would be wrong, said the Rev. Joe Schumacher, the No. 2 official in the Fort Worth Diocese.
"I don't think we can say off the top of our heads that they're a danger. That's guilty until proven innocent," Father Schumacher said. "I would say the whole world has had problems like this, and that's true of every profession."
As for thorough criminal checks, he said, "It's kind of hard to get that out of Rwanda."
Recent cases of native priests in the Philippines, Hong Kong and Australia indicate that abuse is more than an American problem.
Other voices warn that, in the United States, the risks involving foreign-born priests may be magnified because they often serve immigrant parishes that hold a more exalted view of the church hierarchy and stronger loyalty toward it.
"Abuse by foreign priests may be a particularly underreported phenomenon," said David Clohessy, head of the national Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. "Because of cultural differences and the added vulnerability of immigrant Catholics, a foreign-born priest probably has greater power over his victim and less chance of being detected.
"Kids are less apt to tell of abuse. Parents are less apt to believe them and less apt to call law enforcement."
That's the scenario described in a lawsuit accusing a priest of sexually abusing four boys in a Chicago family in 1998-99 - in the wake of repeated abuse allegations against him in South America.
Like one-third of the priests in the United States, the Rev. Carlos Peralta is supervised not by a diocese but by one of many independent religious orders - another factor complicating accountability in abuse cases. When police were eventually notified, the priest's order had moved him out of Chicago on his way to Mexico.
"These guys are moved around and let loose on unwary and unsuspecting parishioners," said Jeff Anderson, a St. Paul, Minn., lawyer who has litigated about 600 clergy sexual abuse cases.
The Peralta lawsuit is one of the first to name the Vatican.
"I became alarmed at the international movement of offender priests, the refusal to remove them [as priests] and the secret record-keeping," Mr. Anderson said, referring to canon law that instructs bishops to keep incriminating material confidential.
Four years ago, he won a $30 million verdict against a California diocese for its handling of the Rev. Oliver O'Grady. The native of Ireland, already accused of molestations, had been moved to another church where he abused two young brothers for a decade.
For generations, Catholic priests immigrated by the thousands to the United States from Ireland.
America's dependence on foreign priests has broadened and deepened during a nearly 40-year downturn in the number of men entering the priesthood. Priests now come in sizable numbers from India, Mexico and South America, Africa, Spain and Poland, Vietnam and the Philippines, in addition to Ireland.
Catholic officials said they've built more safeguards into their foreign hiring procedures, which vary by diocese, and they reject more applicants. Mostly, they ask more questions - usually in writing - of the priest, his bishop and others recommending him.
"It used to be a foreign-born priest would come by the chancery and say, 'I want to stay here and work,'" said Bronson Havard, a spokesman for the Dallas Diocese, which installed a five-member oversight board in 1997 for such hires. "We're much more careful about who we let in."
In addition to more mundane concerns about how a priest would adapt to American culture, dioceses now typically ask if he has shown signs of alcohol or drug abuse or sexual misconduct.
"The bishop would have to outright lie and deceive us," Mr. Havard said.
That has happened, critics said.
"I have a feeling there's an interchange going on," said Sylvia Demarest, a Dallas lawyer who has represented many abuse victims, including some in the landmark Rudy Kos case of five years ago.
"I think we send our problems to other countries, and they send their problems to us.
"These people rarely are caught because they just skip and are never heard from again."
The Tyler Diocese had that experience in 1997 with the Rev. Gustavo Cuello, a priest from Colombia still wanted in connection with a child sexual assault.
Bishop Edmond Carmody, who settled a lawsuit that claimed he ignored warnings about the priest, said officials do their best to check backgrounds and have learned not to move offenders.
"Nothing is foolproof," said the bishop, now in charge of the Corpus Christi Diocese. "We've realized moving a priest from one parish to another opened a new group of victims and ... the damage a bad priest can cause anywhere in the church, the scandal."
'Whatever it takes'
Of nine recent abuse cases in the Dallas Diocese, one involved a foreign priest; Anthony Nwaogu of Nigeria received a five-year sentence for child molestation in 1999.
"That to us was not an example of someone who slipped through the system," Mr. Havard said. "He did not have a history of that."
Father Doyle flatly discounted foreign references. "Are you kidding?" he said. "If they've got a guy who's been an abuser, they're not going to tell anyone."
That street runs both ways, said the Rev. Gary Hayes, a Kentucky priest who founded Survivors of Clergy Abuse Linkup.
"I don't think I'd believe them any more than I'd believe us," Father Hayes said of church officials in the United States and abroad. "Maybe you just monitor the priests very well."
Priests coming to America often must take psychological evaluations.
Steve Rubino, a New Jersey lawyer for abuse victims, said a candidate should be checked out in his home territory.
"Whatever it takes to verify, you do it," he said. "Spend the time. Spend the money."
Bishop Carmody offered another solution: Priests should say their prayers and live their vows.
"The protection of children is our sacred duty," he said. "We must, must, must protect our children."
By Adam Pitluk
From start to finish, there was something carnival-like about the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which gathered in Dallas last week to draft a national policy regarding sexual abuse of youths by clerics. For one, members of the media outnumbered the 252 bishops and cardinals by 2-to-1, and the entire east block of Akard Street was partitioned off for anticipated protesters.
Since they couldn't get personal access to the bishops, 12 different reform groups held news conferences at the Adam's Mark Hotel to announce their propositions for a better church. But it was the Dallas Diocese itself, wracked by recent scandal involving an abusive priest, that would eventually provide the idea that stuck, offering a blueprint for making churches safer from those who would prey upon the vulnerable.
Catholics for a Free Choice demanded "zero tolerance" for priests who commit any act of sexual misconduct. Dignity USA, the nation's foremost organization of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Catholics, wanted to convey the message that there is "absolutely no link between the sexual abuse of children and homosexuality," says President Mary Louise Cervone. The Women's Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual (WATER) called on the church to overhaul itself and instill a code of professional standards of conduct like those currently in place for teachers and doctors. The Young Feminist Network was on hand to ask the church to be friendlier to its women parishioners. "Young Catholic feminists need to be heard," says coordinator Joy Barnes. "The systemic injustices of homophobia are becoming more and more prevalent."
Basically, anyone who has a beef with the Catholic Church was present at the conference. Outside the Fairmont, Pastor Fred Phelps, notorious for his "GodHatesFags. com," dispatched his minions--including his daughter--to protest the church's practice of ordaining gay men. The Queer Liberation Front asked the church for the opposite: more gay priests. The two groups ended up protesting each other. There were protesters demanding the church cease conducting infant circumcisions, and one woman even held up a sign saying, "Thank God for September 11."
But this was all just icing on the cake. The conference, perhaps, deserved such a bizarre table setting simply for the irony of its presence here in Dallas, home of the largest sexual-abuse verdict against the church in the United States. In January 1998, the Diocese of Dallas was perilously close to filing for bankruptcy. A 1997 lawsuit involving 11 victims of sexual abuse at the hands of a priest was the first multiple-victim case to go to trial. The victims were awarded $119.6 million because of abuse they suffered at the hands of the Reverend Rudolph "Rudy" Kos. When the verdict was finally entered, the Dallas church owed the victims more than $180 million with accrued interest, and that amount was growing every month.
"There was a serious prospect that the diocese would have to declare bankruptcy," says Sylvia Demarest, who along with lawyer Windle Turley represented the victims and their families. "We were the guys in the white hats. We wouldn't be the guys in the white hats if we were responsible for shutting down the diocese--if, because of us, churches and schools shut down." As a result, they settled with the church for $31 million, so as not to bankrupt the diocese.
Diocese Chief Financial Officer Michael Weis says the church paid several thousand of that out of cash and borrowed $11.3 million. Insurance companies covered the rest. The church also sold off various properties to help retire the debt, which was paid off in December 2000.
As the bishops spent hours arguing over the various proposed amendments to the charter, the level head of the bunch was Dallas Bishop Coadjutor Joseph Galante. At one point during the conference, he addressed his fellow bishops as though they were schoolchildren themselves. "It's very clear what the problem is, and it's very clear what the solution is," he said. "People want a clear policy that says, 'Your children will be safe.' Now that's why we're here."
It was from similar smoldering ashes that the Diocese of Dallas created the now famous "safe environment" program designed to protect children and the vulnerable. Dallas Bishop Charles Grahmann made a fierce push to revamp the diocese, and he did so by implementing safe environment, a three-pronged effort at reform.
First, Mary Edlund, a laywoman, was appointed chancellor, a position historically occupied by a priest. "Only Bishop Grahmann has the power to make changes, but he's relied on his advisory board extensively," she says. "He felt very strongly that a board made up of his constituents would keep him in touch with the community." Second, four major diocesan boards were formed: personnel, pastoral concerns, ordination/ accreditation and conduct review. Lastly, a third party, Praesidium Inc., was brought in to audit Dallas churches and make sure everyone is in compliance with the program.
If a parishioner calls in a complaint about a priest, or if allegations are made about any kind of misconduct, sexual or otherwise, Edlund is the first person he or she talks to. "They feel comfortable talking to a layperson and to a laywoman," she says. Most recently, Bishop Grahmann called a meeting of his lay advisory board to discuss infractions of the diocese's safe environment program by the Reverend Stephan Bierschenk of St. Thomas Aquinas in Dallas and the Reverend Efren Ortega of St. James in Oak Cliff. The two priests were not accused of abuse themselves, but for simply failing to live up to the strict new policy.
The meeting resulted in the two priests being transferred for not conducting background checks of everybody working in their respective churches. In transferring Bierschenk and Ortega, the diocese set a national precedent and demonstrated that it is serious about the safety of its parishioners. "One of the key elements of the safe environment program is a background check on all employees and all volunteers that deal with children and the vulnerable," Galante says. "Father Ortega and Father Bierschenk did not do the checks."
Edlund was instrumental in this decision. "What the bishops heard from me was my outrage," she says. "I was outraged that pastors could have left implementations of safe environment so unattended, particularly in the climate of our times. Discussions around such issues are always collaborative. They usually involve the two bishops and me and sometimes the personnel board. In the cases of fathers Bierschenk and Ortega--involving the removal of a pastor or the suspension of a priest--I favored strong disciplinary action.
"I believe that some of these policies around safe environment are non-negotiable, so I take a tough stand. I felt the decision to remove [Bierschenk] was justified, although when the pastor met with me and the bishops, I think he was a bit surprised by the position I took."
And this, in essence, is what dioceses across the country can expect when they draft their own safe environment programs. The Dallas policy, which is touted by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops as a model, will more than likely be the skeletal frame by which other Catholic communities fashion their programs.
Article 12 of the charter approved by the bishops says: "Diocese will establish 'safe environment' programs. They will cooperate with parents, civil authorities, educators and community organizations to provide education and training for children, youths, parents, ministers, educators and others about ways to make and maintain a safe environment for children."
No matter how great safe environment looks on paper, there is no such thing as a faultless program. The children may be better protected, but some priests who were otherwise upstanding will get swept up in this whirlwind.
The Gay Priest Thing:
By Jim Schutze
Wait a minute. The conference is over? The Roman Catholic bishops have left town already? And we're not going to talk about the gay priest thing?
Only in Dallas. This always was a town where people knew how to avoid talking about the obvious. And Dallas is, after all, where the recent cycle of American Catholic priest sex scandals began five years ago with the history-making jury awards in the Rudy Kos civil case.
Kos, a Catholic priest accused of having sex with dozens of altar boys, was convicted in a criminal trial a year after the civil trial and is now serving a sentence of life in prison.
I guess this is where I am expected to make the politically correct stipulation that homosexuality has no relationship with pedophilia, and, based on everything I have read, that's true. It's all about "power."
But can we say sexual power?
And if we call it that, then how can we talk about sexual abuse by a priest, or by any other person for that matter, and not talk about the obvious in-your-face issues concerning that person's sexuality?
I covered some of the Kos civil trial as a reporter for the Houston Chronicle, and I remember what everybody was whispering about in the corridors. One hot topic, which did get reported eventually in an article in D Magazine, was the cadre of militantly gay priests who had achieved influence in this area's Holy Trinity Seminary. Parents told me how their sons came back from seminary complaining about the verbal hammerings they endured for being straight.
Another issue at the time of the Kos trial was a priest who had come to Dallas to take a high diocesan office supposedly on the condition that the diocese find employment for his male life partner, also a priest. The diocese denied that any such arrangement existed when I checked on the story at the time. But Dallas civil rights lawyer Mike Daniel, a Catholic, remembered that imbroglio right away when I called him during the recent bishops' convention. He said he thought the difficult issue for Catholics in that case was less homosexuality than celibacy.
"I guess the objection would have been the same if it had been a woman," he said. "It's not celibacy, whether it's male or female."
I asked if the two scenarios were truly equivalent--un-celibate behavior with a woman vs. un-celibate behavior with another man. He pondered a little and said the practical reality seems to be that they are not.
"The point is, would the hierarchy have allowed [two diocesan officials] who were male and female to live together? It probably wouldn't have. Whereas I think it was fairly widely accepted that they were special partners. It was not anything they were particularly shy about showing, either."
So. The Catholic Church preaches that homosexuality is a sin. Only men can be Catholic priests. They must vow celibacy. And yet the one form of non-celibacy that seems to be winked at by both the hierarchy and the faithful is homosexuality. Quite apart from political correctness, can somebody just help me with the math?
And let me declare myself a little here. I was raised in the Protestant Episcopal Church, the son of a clergyman. My father would have been called a priest in the Dallas diocese but was a minister in Eastern Michigan. Every Sunday Episcopalians swear fealty to the "Holy catholic" church. It's a hard outfit to figure sometimes. A wag once told me the Episcopal Church is the Catholic Church without the religion. It's easy to make jokes.
But I do have nagging doubts about Protestantism, having grown up over the store. I know that my own household has just been through a very dispiriting experience in the United Methodist Church in which I was reminded, once again, that the great power on earth, other than the Word, is money. Every time I hear someone complain about the arrogance of the Catholic clergy, I think, yeah, but if you don't stay pretty arrogant with these Christians, the rich ones will whip their checkbooks out of their holsters and start firing financial bullets at the preacher's feet to make him dance.
An aura of intimidating power is not in and of itself evil. It's what you do with your intimidating power. MTV has power. The church needs power, too.
But if you take power and tie too many moral knots in it, with deception, hypocrisy and self-protection, then inevitably that power becomes a flail. Somewhere in the twists and turns the powerful person manages to objectify and dehumanize the people on whom he must exercise power. Objectification is always the first major step on the road to the gas chambers, or to child sexual abuse.
But who is the hypocrite and who the moral knot-maker? Is it the homosexual priest who devotes his life to God and church while acknowledging his own nature as a homosexual? Or does the church tie the knot by expecting priests to enforce sexual order on the faithful while the church refuses to honestly address the sexuality of the priests themselves?
I apply about a 60 percent discount to my own views here, by the way, because I know that I am an outsider looking in, and there's a lot I won't really get because of it. I also worry, in passing judgment on someone else's religious faith, that I will just wind up sounding like the recent doofus at the Baptist convention who said something to the effect that the Baptists are leading the Muslims by two touchdowns and a field goal in the closing minutes of the last quarter of the game of life.
Therefore, I must check myself against smart Catholics. Wick Allison, publisher of D Magazine in Dallas and former publisher of the National Review, may be Dallas' most devout thoughtful Catholic who can write. In a phone conversation just after the bishops' conference, he said the issue of homosexuality among priests in the Dallas diocese must be drawn even more narrowly to the question of priests who somehow manage to be both flamboyantly gay and also secretive at the same time. He said it was clear five years ago that the Dallas-area seminary had spawned "an environment of openly hostile flamboyant gays.
"In Key West, where we used to have a house, there is a distinction between homosexuals and gays. They'll tell you that 'we threw out the gays 15 years ago.' Of course, who's telling you this is a homosexual couple that you're having dinner with."
The issue here, he said, has involved the latter type, the priests who would be called gay even in Key West. Among some of them, Allison sees evidence of a very complicated, not to say twisted, culture of sexual subterfuge.
"Yeah, there is a subculture," he said, "and it can be painful, and it can be self-destructive and destructive to others, just like any secret subculture."
I thought it was interesting that both he and Mike Daniel came to the same bottom line--that everyone would be better off if homosexual priests were allowed to come all the way out of the closet, at least in terms of publicly declaring their status, if not in violating their oath of celibacy.
"If I were writing about this," Allison said, "I might write that it might be a bit better for the church if everyone came out of the closet. I don't think the parishioners care. I don't know who does care. It's the secrecy that allows something to fester and to become really sick. I don't know if it has anything to do with pedophilia, but it [the homosexuality of priests] is one of the things that certainly has been denied by the hierarchy. And I think they think it's tied to the pedophilia."
How much more tangled can we make this web? The church wrongly ties pedophilia to homosexuality but also wrongly denies that many of its priests are homosexual? What a fine mess.
But it's precisely this mess that makes official cover-up and complicity in child sex abuse possible, according to Windle Turley, a lawyer who represented several of Rudy Kos' victims five years ago. And I know you're going to say, "He's a lawyer who's in this for the money." But I called him after the conference because I remembered, money or not, that he and his people did major research into the history of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church for the Kos case.
He doesn't blame pedophilia on homosexual clergy, by any means, but he does think the church's confusion and official hypocrisy on the issue of the sexuality of priests help create a dangerous atmosphere.
"I'm not saying that gays caused the pedophile abuse," Turley told me. "I'm saying there is a tolerance of the failure of celibacy."
The underground nature of un-celibate behavior, both homosexual and heterosexual, he said, has made possible a brand of adult dishonesty and manipulativeness in which pedophiles may find convenient shelter.
The sum of these problems, Turley believes, makes the Catholic Church tangibly more dangerous to children than other religious institutions. He says the Catholic Church suffers from a "long heritage and practice of hiding and concealing and tolerating sexual abuse." As a result, he says, "I think that pedophilia is more common in the Catholic Church than it is in other religious institutions."
Daniel told me that Catholic parishioners and parents find some aspects of the situation simply too bizarre and embarrassing to deal with. He said--and I confirmed with an attorney for the diocese--that one of the new rules adopted after the Kos case provides explicitly that it is not permissible for a minor to spend the night in the rectory and sleep in the priest's bed.
Good rule. On the one hand.
On the other hand, if you need a rule like this, don't you think you might need to talk about a whole bunch of other things as well?
Policy Not Applicable to Priests in Orders
By Susan Hogan/Albach
The Conference of Major Superiors of Men, which represents the leaders of 160 religious orders in the United States, said it would consider adopting a similar policy at its meeting next month in Philadelphia.
The Rev. Ted Keating, executive director of the conference, said church leaders are also discussing starting monastic-like houses around the country for sexually abusive priests no longer allowed to minister.
"Many religious orders that I deal with are perfectly willing to adopt a policy similar to the bishops,' " he said. "As it is, we can't assign a priest out of a religious order into a parish without the bishop's permission."
Nearly 15,000 of the nation's 45,191 priests belonged to religious orders, according to 2001 statistics compiled by the Center for the Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University.
The bishops' charter applies to religious order priests who work in diocesan ministries. But the charter doesn't apply to religious-order priests who work in private schools or hospitals run by religious orders, such as the Jesuits.
At least five Jesuit priests or brothers accused of sexual abuse in the past have worked for Jesuit College Preparatory School in North Dallas. They reported to superiors in the Jesuit order rather than the Dallas Diocese. Some were removed from posts at the school only to be assigned ministries in other states.
Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles said it's critical for religious orders to follow sexual abuse policies similar to dioceses. If they don't, the church may face other sexual abuse scandals in the future.
"Otherwise, we find ourselves in the situation that diocesan priests are called to one standard and religious priests are called to another standard," he said.
Father Keating said leaders of religious orders understand the importance of following similar policy. He said his group consulted with the bishops for two months as the bishops' charter on the sexual abuse of children was developed.
"The policy we follow may have more nuances," he said. "The nature of the religious life is more community, family-type living. We wouldn't be quick to defrock a priest or throw them out because of a sexual offense. Under canon law, we have to watch out for him."
The bishops' charter states that priests who abuse children shouldn't be allowed to function in any way as priests except for celebrating a private Mass. They cannot present themselves publicly as a priest, wear a clerical collar, lead public worship or function in restricted ministries.
In some cases, bishops may push for laicization - the process of returning a member of the clergy to the lay state. The process is long and tedious, though bishops are working to develop a way to expedite procedures.
Father Keating said religious orders have long kept pedophiles - serial child molesters - under strict restrictions. But they have been willing to allow "rehabilitated" ephebophiles - men attracted to adolescents - to return to ministry in restricted settings where they wouldn't be around young people.
"The bishops are saying that would probably have to end," he said. "I suppose these priests won't be able to lead Masses at convents anymore, either."
There are 75 religious-order priests working in the Dallas Diocese, according to the diocese's 2002 directory. About one-third work in diocesan parishes, which gives Bishop Charles V. Grahmann authority over them.
"I personally approve any religious-order priest to work in a parish in my diocese," said Bishop Joseph Delaney of the Fort Worth Diocese. "If there's a hint of anything in their record, they don't do ministry here."
Religious-order priests typically take vows of poverty, chastity and obedience in a community approved by the Vatican, such as Franciscans, Dominicans, Jesuits or Benedictines. Some live in closed communities, such as monasteries; others are fully involved in society with ministries such as schools or hospitals.
While religious-order priests report directly to their religious superiors, diocesan priests report to bishops. Diocesan priests have more autonomy in the sense that they draw a salary and plan for their own retirements. Religious-order priests generally must turn over their salaries to their communities and live on a small stipend.
"Because the religious-order priest has taken a vow of poverty, he has no assets," Father Keating said. "We're responsible for him. We would try to find a place for him [clergy sex offender] in the community where he wouldn't have contact with the public."
The Rev. Larry Dunham of Albuquerque, N.M., a Franciscan minister provincial, said some religious orders may balk at zero tolerance toward priests with single cases of abuse in the past.
"We can't just throw these men out on the street," he said. "We have an obligation to monitor them and see that they don't do it again. They may not be able to work in public, but there may be something they could do for the religious orders."
Whatever is decided, he said, religious orders would want to maintain their autonomy from diocesan structures.
"That gives them the freedom to be on the edge and do unique work like caring for the poor and homeless," he said. "Nobody wants to lose that."
Father Keating said one of the primary concerns of bishops and religious superiors is what to do with abusive priests who, in accordance with the bishops' charter, can no longer serve in any ministries.
"Everyone is concerned," he said. "If we don't turn them out to society, where do we put them so they can't harm children again?"
Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of Washington, D.C., and other bishops have said monasteries might be an alternative for priests with records of abuse. But several leaders of monastic communities have flatly rejected that idea.
"Monks do not want their monasteries to become low-security prisons or therapeutic centers for clergy sex offenders," said the Rev. William Skudlarek, spokesman for St. John's Abbey in Collegeville, Minn. His monastery has 14 of its own monks under restrictions because of sexual abuse.
The Dallas Diocese said it has at least one priest accused of molestation living "as a hermit in a New York monastery." The Rev. Richard Brown was accused of molesting a teenage girl in 1981.
It's the remote nature of monasteries that bishops have said make them attractive options for relocating abusive priests. But Father Skudlarek said many monasteries are much-demanded spiritual refuges for laypeople seeking prayerful retreats. The more remote the monastery, the more popular retreat site that it often becomes.
"Even though we're a Trappist monastery in the middle of nowhere, we have outsiders coming to Mass with their children," said Abbot Damien Thompson of Gethsemani Abbey near Bardstown, Ky. He said bishops might have damaged the reputations of monks by suggesting that abusive priests be sent to monasteries.
"We're afraid that people will start looking at the men of the house and wondering about their past," the abbot said.
Panel May Be Reviewed
By Susan Hogan/Albach
The Catholic Diocese of Dallas said this week that it might re-examine the makeup of its conduct review board in light of the sexual abuse charter passed by U.S. bishops last week.
The diocese said its board was created before the 1997 civil verdict that found the diocese guilty of gross negligence in its handling for former priest Rudy Kos, who molested boys in three parishes during the 1980s and early 1990s.
The bishops' charter calls for each diocese to have a review board to assist bishops in assessing allegations and fitness for ministry. The majority of board members are to be laypeople not employed by the diocese.
Diocesan spokesman Bronson Havard said the diocese's board was made up of six people: a psychologist, a law enforcement officer, a priest who specializes in church law, a civil lawyer, a priest and a counselor. The diocese's chancellor acts as a nonvoting facilitator of the group, he said.
Bishop Charles V. Grahmann selected the board members from names submitted to him by a committee established to study reforms needed in the diocese after the Kos trial, Mr. Havard said.
The names of the people on the board are being kept confidential. Mr. Havard said they wanted their privacy protected to avoid being pressured at their place of employment or in their homes by people wanting to sway the outcome of any allegations under consideration.
"We may need to revisit this in the fall," he said.
Although the bishops' charter doesn't specifically say that board members must be identified, the policy calls for openness and transparency on the bishops' part in handling allegations. Lay Catholics across the country are pushing for board members to be identified to comply with the spirit of the charter.
"As long as bishops continue to operate in secrecy on this issue, they will have trouble restoring the trust and credibility they've lost with laypeople," said Paul Baier, a member of Voice of the Faithful, a Boston-based grassroots group advocating a greater role for laypeople in the church's decision-making. "We have to have visibility as to whose on these lay boards."
Mr. Havard said that the point was valid and would be considered.
The Brownsville Diocese has publicly identified the members of its new review board. The Austin Diocese has not. Spokeswoman Helen Osman said the diocese may ask permission from committee members to do so in the future.
"Some people say if their names are public, there's more transparency," she said. "Others say if there names are public, people can approach them and try to sway them one way or another."
This week, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles - the nation's largest - announced that it is creating an independent advisory board to review accusations against priests. The board will be led by a retired superior court judge and made up of 11 laypeople and two priests.
U.S. bishops also created a national review board to be headed by Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating. The board will monitor the way local dioceses follow the charter on sexual abuse. At this point, it remains unclear how much authority or independence the national board will have.
"U.S. Catholic bishops' policies for addressing sexual abuse of minors by priests, deacons and other church personnel will only be as credible as the amount of real authority given to each diocesan lay review board," said Sister Christine Schenk, who directs the Cleveland-based Catholic group FutureChurch.
Priest Cited Over Policy
By Susan Hogan/Albach
But unlike the other priests, the pastor of All Saints Church in Far North Dallas will not lose his parish.
Bishop Charles V. Grahmann recently removed the Rev. Tom Cloherty from four of the bishop's key advisory committees. In addition, the priest can no longer serve as chaplain to area youths attending the World Youth Day gathering led by Pope John Paul II in Toronto next month.
Father Cloherty said his daily duties in the parish are unchanged. He'll keep his post because most required background checks on parish employees and volunteers had been done, unlike the parishes led by the other two priests, the diocese said.
"These are different circumstances requiring different actions," said diocesan spokesman Bronson Havard. Bishop Grahmann could not be reached for comment.
All Saints is one of three parishes in which Rudy Kos molested boys from 1981 to 1992 while serving as a priest in the diocese. The parish has an estimated 10,000 members, including 700 volunteers who participate in ministries.
Two months ago, the bishop removed the Rev. Efren Ortega from St. James Catholic Church in Oak Cliff and the Rev. Stephen Bierschenk from St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church in Dallas. An independent audit had shown that the priests hadn't put the diocese's safe environment policy fully into place.
Father Ortega was demoted as pastor and made a parochial vicar - an assistant - at St. Edward Catholic Church in Dallas. Father Bierschenk was made pastor of St. Michael Catholic Church in McKinney, a much smaller parish than his Dallas congregation. Neither priest could be reached for comment Friday.
Father Cloherty said the auditor told him that background checks had been done on all employees at his parish and 80 percent to 85 percent of the volunteers. He said he was surprised to learn that the parish wasn't in total compliance.
"Normally, society would consider 85 percent passing," he said. "But being sensitive to the actions of Rudy Kos in this parish, we need to be held to a higher standard. I understand that."
Bishop Grahmann removed Father Cloherty from diocesan posts on the College of Consultors, Presbyteral Council, Personnel Board and Commission for Orders. Mr. Havard said it would be wrong to characterize the priest's removal as a disciplinary action.
"He and the bishop decided it would be best if he devoted his full energies to the implementation of the diocese's safe environment program," Mr. Havard said.
Gloria Tarpley, a member of St. Thomas who led an effort to keep Father Bierschenk, said Friday that the other priests should have been allowed to keep their parishes and correct any shortcomings in implementing the policy.
"This reiterates how unfair and uneven the diocese has been in enforcing the safe environment plan," she said. "At first blush, this latest response is a much more measured response than what they did with Father Bierschenk, which was completely out of line and punitive."
Father Cloherty said he had assumed that oversight of the background screenings was being done through the church's business office. But former business manager Charles Sylvester said he was never asked to oversee the program. He said he resigned last month "because it was time" to leave after eight years of service.
"There was a lot of presumption on my part that everything was being done," Father Cloherty said. "There was a presumption on his part as to what fell under his job description. But, as pastor, it was ultimately my responsibility."
He said he has attended several workshops and required sessions for clergy on the diocese's safe environment policy. He said he soon hopes to hire someone whose only responsibility is to ensure that the policy is put into place.
"We want to make risk reduction a top priority for the safety of the entire community," he said. "Parents should never have to worry about their children and being safe in church."
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